The game of chess started with an unimaginable thrill but halfway into the story, the players prove to be highly amateur if not less. No, I’m not talking about the literal players of the game of politics but more. The trailer that was released a few weeks ago was largely made of solely the first episode. Thereafter, it’s a whole different world.

Ali Abbas Zafar’s latest creation, a nine-part series of political drama, Tandav made a boom with its inception. The farmers are protesting against some highway bill that is taking away their land, two consecutive encounters of protestors take place. In another shot, Saif Ali Khan playing Samar Pratap Singh as the son of the two-term Prime Minister Devaki Nandan is shimmering with his screen presence as the Youth Icon. His own father, the to-be-again Prime Minister is commanding his power rather ruthlessly. A student from VNU, Delhi is imprisoned. A lot is going on together on different fronts until the well-curated murder of Devaki Nandan is proven to be demise by a heart attack. From this point onwards, Tandav is a drama that could have been more. 

The plotline, although very vanilla, to be frank, is a lot like any Indian drama we would expect from Bollywood. There are illicit affairs, wrongful powerplays, vital henchmen (also women) and powerful women, but the story remains an undertone of what could have been. There are unexplored grounds in the writing where the writer, Gaurav Solanki could have upstaged the storyline a little more. As an audience, I sought more than just regular killings, student protests, threats and uproaring crowds. Other former political dramas like the Sarkar Trilogy and Rajneeti, although being movies and not web series still came to the business with originality and innovation. Whereas Tandav is the same old fight for power with the only relevant question being who will be the Prime Minister and who will not. There are two major fronts in this series. One, the political war at the Parliament; the second at VNU where the student union is fencing with their own problems and turmoils. 

The direction by Ali Abbas Zafar is beautifully done. The frames are roaring with continuous thunder and loud production backdrops. The South-Block and India gate are multiply used throughout the series as against University Libraries, statues and Lavish homes. The costume designs being one of the classiest additions to this screenplay makes everything look lavish at least by three folds. The cinematography is cleverly shot with an ornate background of political life. Together writer and director have created a tale of ambition and betrayal with twists of corruption and socio-political deceptions. There are moments where even murder is shown so cleanly that you won’t know what are you rooting for in real.

The star-cast is stunning and overflowing with talent. Sunil Grover as Gurpal Chauhan, the first face to appear in the series is the real deal. From the very beginning it is clear as day that the real Tandav, the raging dance of destruction is the doings of Gurpal Chauhan. Whilst being the hitman to Samar Singh, he is also the knight in a bold white armour. It is commendable to watch our bad-man do all the negative work in spotless clothes and demeanour. He steals the show with every second of his screen time in Tandav. As this tussle for power unfolds with one plotline to another, Gurpal is the only standing awardee to the best-written character as well as the unbeatable talent in this show. Saif Ali Khan is another remarkable actor playing a contentious character. With a character development that is rooted within family problems and self-insecurities, it is truly difficult to decide whether to sympathise with him or dislike his intentions.

Dimple Kapadia playing the role of Anuradha Kishore, an over-ambitious woman, seen as Devaki Nandan’s affair in the public eye. But there is so much to the talented actress and a powerful woman of Parliament. She steals the show in Tandav right after Sunil Grover’s performance as  Gurpal Chauhan. Every dialogue delivered by Dimple Kapadia has an equal, if not more, emotional action to it. She is saying one thing, thinking another and feeling the third emotion altogether and with what brilliance!  

Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub is playing the role of Shiva Shekhar and is showcasing very promising talent. His character’s development is a little underdone but still the actor makes the cut. Other actors like Gauhar Khan and Kritika Kamra add a lot of eccentricities to the female occupancy in this show. Side actors like Kumud Mishra, Anup Soni, Dino Moria and Sandhya Mridul outdo their acting and add so much more weight to the series. At the same time, Ayesha Pratap Singh played by Sarah Jane Dias tries to fit into the stunning character of Samar’s wife with her strict nods and political attire but brings nothing to the screen really.

The sound direction has added to the show with their background score and so has the Editing Department with their skilful editing; but there is only so much they can do for the web series. Tandav’s end is even more disappointing because it doesn’t leave the viewer with anything. Even if it didn’t want to let the suspense go in the first season itself, my opinion being, they should have given us at least the seed to the plant if not the fruit. 

Tandav is wickedly good in the first five parts and then falls down with cliched writing and assumable twists. It is a delicious drama but not a thriller which again it could have been. By the end there are too many love angles, too many deaths, too many social connections and one major point of suspense left untouched for perhaps the second season. Having said that, it is entertaining with it’s masala politics and can be a one time watch for viewers who adore the likes of Saif Ali Khan, Sunil Grover and Dimple Kapadia.

Now streaming on Prime Video.


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